24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Finest WWII Documentary Ever Produced
For History buffs and those who have a keen, deeply felt interest in World War II beyond just the military events, the World at War, produced by Thames Television (1981) and released earlier on VHS by Thorn/EMI, is a 26 episode documentary set apart from all other documentaries about WWII. No other, with the exception of Walter Cronkite's CBS series, comes close to an...
Published on Sept. 15 2001 by Frank "the man"
2.0 out of 5 stars missing item
I received this feedback from the recipient of this product, to whom it was sent as birthday gift:
"By the way, you should let Amazon know that disc/episode 9 is missing from the set. I think Amazon does not have this in stock regularly and they "brokered" the transaction because the set was sent by a personal third-party in Quebec. Given the rarity of the...
Published on Oct. 2 2011 by Patricia Cotterill
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Finest WWII Documentary Ever Produced,
For History buffs and those who have a keen, deeply felt interest in World War II beyond just the military events, the World at War, produced by Thames Television (1981) and released earlier on VHS by Thorn/EMI, is a 26 episode documentary set apart from all other documentaries about WWII. No other, with the exception of Walter Cronkite's CBS series, comes close to an unbiased, analytical perspective of a War that cost perhaps 50 million lives and took an emotional and philosophical toll we are still trying to comprehend today.
Narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier and covering all aspects of the war, this definitive series is used by many colleges and universities as a source for History and Documentary Film courses. There is an incredible depth of archive footage used; skilfully woven with interviews of major figures in the War from Britain, US, Canada, Europe and Japan. Many major eye-witness leaders and ordinary people who were still alive in 1981 contributed sometimes surprising, sometimes incredible, and sometimes haunting interviews. Yet, for all its skilful editing and historical sophistication, it is clearly presented and emotionally compelling. In my opinion, it is, along with Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation", the best ever produced British documentary.
What makes this a stellar and overpowering account of the War is Olivier's narration. Never blustery, patriotic, or theatrical, Sir Laurence delivers pointed, thoughtful analysis with his incredible command of English and oration. Music for the series was composed by Carl Davis and even the opening credits set an unforgettable tone in a haunting image of a child in a photograph, dissolving in flames. This series is for those trying to make sense of a 6 year period when the world went mad. Five Stars PLUS.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Remember",
This is an excellent, extensive, British-made documentary about events leading up to, and including, World War II. With 26 episodes, there is quite a bit of material covered. Excellent narration by Laurence Olivier, and a memorable score.
If you are a war buff, particularly WW2, this is the set to have. Can't say enough good things about it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive account of the worst war in history,
This review is from: The World At War (DVD)
I mentioned to one of my friends when I ordered this series that I wanted to learn more about World War II. I had always known that World War II was terrible, but watching The World at War, I realised that I had not known the extent of how terrible it truly was. This experience has had a significant impact on me, and is not one that I will forget quickly.
The scale of World War II was staggering. 50 million people lost their lives, including 20 million Russians. Although the total figure varies according to the methodology used, anywhere from 9 to 11 million Jews, Poles, Slavs, gypsies, gay men, political dissidents, people with disabilities and others were murdered by the SS and their supporters, most in the concentration and extermination camps of Auschwitz, Dachau and the like, names which have become synonymous with unspeakable horror and infamy. Whole cities (or large parts thereof), such as Warsaw, Dresden, Nagasaki and St Petersburg, to name just a few, were razed, acts that involved the indiscriminate slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians. The World at War covers the devastation waged on these, and other, cities.
One thing I always remember from when I first watched this series, as a young boy in the 70s, is the opening music by Carl Davis, which is perfectly suited to the subject matter. Another thing I always remember about the opening is the very effective use of the various human faces fading into each other, and being engulfed by flames. I especially remember the face of the little boy.
Some of the episodes I found the most gripping include the following: The Final Solution Parts 1 and 2; Warrior; Morning: June - August 1944 (about the Allied invasion of Normandy); Occupation: Holland 1940 - 1944; Nemesis: Germany February - May 1945; and Hitler's Germany: Total War 1939 - 1945. Of these, the episodes I found the most disturbing were The Final Solution Parts 1 and 2, about the Holocaust, and Warrior, an episode about soldiers and battle, which includes uncompromising and confronting archival footage, such as a scene showing a group of European soldiers unceremoniously tossing a comrade's corpse onto a stretcher and then into an open grave, and footage of the flame throwers the US soldiers used. I remember thinking when I watched the movie Saving Private Ryan, which also depicts the use of the flame throwers, that most people would be hesitant to use such cruel measures on a nest of cockroaches, let alone other human beings. I also found the images at the beginning of disc 5 particularly chilling, such as a young girl in The Netherlands standing under an anti-Semitic sign reading `Voor Joden verboden' - `Prohibited for Jews'.
One of the most notable aspects of the series is the inclusion of many fascinating, and unbiased, interviews with people from both the Allied and Axis nations, including the following:
- Interviews with Traudl Junge, Hitler's secretary
- An interview with Richard Boch, an apparently reluctant SS officer, in which he recounts a conversation he had with a colleague whilst witnessing children who were hiding under piles of clothing being flung into the `showers' during a late-night gassing: `argh, I'm going to be sick, I can't stand this. Oh my', I said, `Karl, I've never seen anything like it in my life, it's absolutely terrible'. His friend later replied `you do get used to anything in time'.
- An interview with Lord Avon, Foreign Minister of the British parliament at the time, in which he comments on the persecution of the Jews: `as the war progressed, some horrifying reports began to come out, and at first, it was very difficult naturally, to assess their accuracy, and they were indeed so horrible that it was hard to believe they could be true'.
- An interview with a German translator, Hildegard Wortmann, in which she talks about hearing of Hitler's suicide: `I was so disappointed that he was such a lousy, such a rotten coward, he had started the war, millions of dead people, everything was lost, in ruins, then he wanted to give up all responsibility and he just committed suicide, just like his mouthpiece Goebbels, I still hear Goebbels in my ears, do you want the total war, the yelling'.
I have only a few minor criticisms of the series, for example, I was somewhat surprised that Josef Mengele, the despicable Nazi `doctor' responsible for performing monstrous experiments on sets of twins, was never specifically mentioned. However, the series overall is so brilliant that any minor criticisms cannot detract from the 5-star rating it so manifestly deserves. It is undoubtedly the definitive documentary of World War II, and you could most definitely not buy any other Word War II documentary and acquire a solid knowledge of the events that unfolded. It is the most expensive item I have purchased on Amazon to date, but it was worth every cent.
The dark nightmare that was World War II embodied the most ghastly evil and blackest period that mankind has ever known, a reality accentuated by every episode of The World at War. The extremes of carnage, destruction and human suffering that the War entailed must never be forgotten, not in 50 years, not in 100 years, not in 500 years. The Holocaust, in particular, was utterly demonic, and although the ovens of Auschwitz, the most notorious death camp of all, are forever silenced, much of its physical entity remains as the Russians found it in January 1945, a reminder to the world of the depraved brutality that racism and bigotry can ultimately lead to. This can be summed up no better than by the powerful and indelible words which end The Final Solution - Part 2: `The ruins of Auschwitz are more than a memorial. As long as there is political intolerance, religious bigotry, racial prejudice, they are a warning. A warning that we all have a responsibility to see - that no-one builds another Auschwitz'.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still The Definitive Documentary after almost 30 Yrs.,
When I was young I used to wait up late until the local CBC affiliate put aired the weekly version of World at War. Although I had watched many WWII documentaries (old footage and reels of the war were something that I just could not get enough of), this clearly stood out as something different. Gone was the entire Hollywood idea of allies smashing the hapless Germans in battles where you never saw the dead of the good guys. Here were bodies floating on the beaches of Tarawa, and Normandy. Here were hardbitten 8th Army Troops Battling their way up the boot of Italy. Here was an assessment of what 20th Century Mechanised war entailed --- the complete extermination or subjugation of your enemy. The ability to resort to any means to persue the end of the war, however just or vile such ends may be.
It was a real shocker. Cold shower of reflection that the war WAS different. That those who rid the world of the twin enenmies of Naziism and Japanese Militarism never served humanity better. That in their necessary, and bloody sacrifices, that they were far from perfect.
Whole one hour segments could be used for teaching aspects of the war. The one "Genocide" is particularly distressing. But it is presented with just exactly the gravity and honesty that it should be presented. Sir Lawrence Olivier appears at the beginning to solemnly announce that what we see we will find shocking, but that these events happenned in Europe and that "they must never happen again." Such events sound interesting in light of the medieval aspects of the breakup of the former Yugoslav republic in the 90s.
Like everything else even with 26 hour-long segments you can still miss a lot. Only 3 hours in total is spent on the war with Japan + one hour on the Burma Front (which is a very good segment). But the events come fast and furious and there are a lot of events missing including the initial Japanese aggression towards China, and some aspects of the American Island hoping campaign. In addition the Campaign in New Guinea is lacking as well as an accurate appreciation of the contributions of the Commonwealth Allies (Australian efforts in the Western Desert are not prominent and the New Guniea Campaign is given a small spot; the fact that Canada did the dress reheasal for Normandy at Dieppe and then found itself with its own beach at DDay -- Juno is not mentioned). In addition there is no mention on the fighting in China.
I bought this documentary series in order that my daughter would have some sense of understanding of the 20th Century and the events that anchor that century, and our present one, in the events of those dark days. When I watch events like "Genocide," "Britain Alone" "The Development of the Bomb" and "The Air War over Europe," I remember the importance of humanity and the importance of stopping early those who would threaten the stability of the world order by insisting on their version of what constitutes the "truth."
That such people and societies are the bane of humanity and need to controlled and stopped at an early time lest they take advantage of our weakness.
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good. Probably THE documentary set to own,
This kept me going for months (in one hour segments at a time). There is so much material presented here and I learned a lot.
I wanted to give 4.5 stars and only knock a half off for the sometimes annoying menu (it could have been presented in a more orgnaized fashion, I thought), or other small problems, but half points aren't allowed on the system. Very close to perfect!
5.0 out of 5 stars World at War Stil Impresses,
I first encoutered this excellent documentary series in the 1970s when it aired on PBS. Laurence Olivier's narration gave the series an extra edge, I always thought. It really is a fantastic series that covers the Second World War from varied perspectives. It needs to be seen by every generation.
5.0 out of 5 stars Purchased for my husband but I'm really enjoying it too.,
We have only finished the first CD but were engrossed for the whole 210 minutes. If the rest of the CD's are as interesting and factual we will have found the time well worth it.
5.0 out of 5 stars a lifetime of learning,
This review is from: The World At War (DVD)
I watched this when I was 20 years old. I'm now 60 and fascinated by world events. Given our ever increasing contact with other cultures a broad understanding of the past helps us to understand the present.
5.0 out of 5 stars Reality Plus!,
This review is from: The World at War [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I recall watching The World at War back in the '70s. Now in Blu-ray the photography is even more vivid and realistic - simply amazing. Anyone interested in the reality of war should watch this - I know because, although I was only five years old at the time, the memories, some bad and some good, just don't fade away.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
Just wanted to add to the ratings. Amazing series. Saw it on TV as a kid in some strange time slot. Saturday afternoons or something. Was deeply moved by it then and the effect is no less all these years later.
Still can't get over the vastness of the war. Anyone trying to describe the whole thing, as this documentary does, of necessity must break it up by geography/time. The effect is to describe many different wars. It is impossible, for me at least, to grasp what it must have been like to live at that time and take in all the events as they came.
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The World at War [Blu-ray] by Laurence Olivier (Blu-ray - 2010)
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